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Protector of Aborigines facts for kids

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The office of the Protector of Aborigines was established pursuant to a recommendation contained in the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes, (British settlements.) of the House of Commons. On 31 January 1838, Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies sent Governor Gipps the report. The office of Chief Protector of Aborigines was established in some states, and in Queensland the title was Protector of Aboriginals.

The office of Protector was by appointment, by the Aboriginal Protection Board (or similar).

The report recommended that Protectors of Aborigines should be engaged. They would be required to learn the Aboriginal language and their duties would be to watch over the rights of Indigenous Australians (mostly Aboriginal, but also Torres Strait Islander people), guard against encroachment on their property and to protect them from acts of cruelty, oppression and injustice. The Port Phillip Protectorate was established with George Augustus Robinson as chief protector and four full-time protectors.

While the role was nominally to protect Aboriginal people, particularly in remote areas, the role included social control up to the point of controlling whom individuals were able to marry and where they lived and managing their financial affairs.

A. O. Neville was a notable Protector in Western Australia.

Matthew Moorhouse was the first Protector of Aborigines in South Australia. He led the Rufus River massacre, which slaughtered 30 to 40 Aboriginal people.

The Aborigines Welfare Board in New South Wales was abolished in 1969. By then, all states and territories had repealed the legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children under the policy of "protection".

Protectors of Aborigines

Protectors of Aborigines around Australia included the following.


This was known as the Port Phillip Protectorate from 1839 to 1849.

  • George Augustus Robinson, (Chief Protector) 1839 to 1849
  • James Dredge, (Assistant Protector) 1839–1840
  • Charles Sievwright, (Assistant Protector) Western District including Geelong 1838–1842
  • Edward Stone Parker, (Assistant Protector) Loddon and Northwest District, 1839–1849
  • William Thomas, (Assistant Protector) Central Protectorate District of Westernport, 1839–1849
  • William Thomas, Guardian of Aborigines in the counties of Bourke, Mornington and Evelyn, 1850-

South Australia

Interim appointments (1836–1839)

  • George Stevenson
  • Capt. Walter Bromley
  • William Wyatt

Gazetted appointments

  • Matthew Moorhouse, 20 June 1839 – 31 March 1856
  • Office of Protector abolished; held ex officio by the Commissioner of Crown Lands (April 1856 – 20 November 1861).
  • John Walker, 21 November 1861 – 26 September 1868
  • Unfilled until 1888, the work being done by Sub-protectors reporting direct to the Commissioner of Crown Lands.
  • Edward Lee Hamilton, 1873–1873 (Head Sub-protector, reporting to Commissioner); 1873–1908 (Protector)
  • William Garnet South, 1908–1923
  • Edward John Eyre, Sub-Protector on the Murray River 1841–1847
  • Edward Bate Scott, Sub-Protector on the Murray River, 1848–1857, later Protector
  • William Richard Penhall, 1939?–1953, Protector of Aborigines and Secretary of the Aborigines Protection Board (APB)
  • 1953–1962: Overlapping appointments, until abolition of the position by the Aboriginal Affairs Act 1962.
    • Clarence "Clarrie" Edmund Bartlett, 1953–1962 who also wrote a book about Point McLeay mission
    • Walter MacDougall, 1949–1962
    • Bob Macaulay, 1956–1962
    • Colin Millar, 1956–1962, also Superintendent of Reserves for the APB

Note: MacDougall and Macaulay were first appointed as "Native Patrol Officers" by the Commonwealth government during the rocket testing at Woomera (which included the nuclear testing at Emu Field and Maralinga), and also appointed as Protectors (by the SA government) when they started work at the range, in 1949 and 1956 respectively.

Northern Territory

Until 1911, Northern Territory was part of South Australia. The Northern Territory Aboriginals Act 1910 (passed by the South Australian parliament), followed by the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 after the territory passed to federal government control, created the office of Chief Protector and the Northern Territory Aboriginals Department.

  • Walter Baldwin Spencer (1911 to 1914/16?)
  • Xavier Herbert, late 1920s?
  • Cecil Cook, 1929–1937
  • William Edward Harney, 1940 to 1947


The office of Chief Protector of Aboriginals took over from the Northern Protector of Aboriginals and Southern Protector of Aboriginals Offices on 25 March 1904, and was succeeded by the Director of Native Affairs Office in 1939 (after the Aboriginals Preservation and Protection Act 1939 and Torres Strait Islander Act 1939 were passed. The Director of Native Affairs Office was superseded by the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department on 28 April 1966, after being abolished by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Affairs Act 1965.

  • Walter Roth, Northern Protector of Aboriginals, 1898–1904
  • Archibald Meston, Southern Protector of Aboriginals, 1898–1903

Chief Protector of Aboriginals Office, 25 March 1904 to 12 October 1939

  •  ?, 1904–1914
  • John William Bleakley, 1914–1939 (1939–1942 Director of Native Affairs)

Western Australia

  • Henry Charles Prinsep, 1898 to 1907
  • Charles Frederick Gale, 1907 to 1915
  • Auber Octavius Neville, 1917 to 1936. Neville was appointed Commissioner of Native Affairs from 1936 to 1940, see also the Moseley Royal Commission.
  • Francis Illingworth Bray, 1940 to 1947. Commissioner of Native Affairs.
  • Stanley Guise Middleton, 1948 to 1962. The Commissioner of Native Affairs was the head of the Department of Native Affairs (Commissioner of Native Welfare from June 1955).
  • Frank Ellis Gare, 1962 to 1972. The last Commissioner of Native Welfare.
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